As I write this I should be in San Francisco at the NSAA annual meeting but I am not. I spent my travel budget for the spring on the Interaplin 2015 in Innsbruck, Austria, an international trade fair for alpine technologies.
Interalpin is one of the world’s largest and most important trade fairs for cable car technology, equipment and winter snow. International exhibitors here have the latest products and materials for cable car operator, winter services and the rescue services in the alpine area. The Interalpin in Innsbruck took place from Wednesday, 15. April to Friday, 17. April 2015.
You might ask why go there, you won’t have the chance to interact with potential customers? Fair question. The truth be told there is no trade show (fair) in North America that can compare with Interaplin. First, it is held in Innsbruck, Austria, which is within 3-4 hours’ drive time of more ski resorts than exist in all of the Americas. Next, this is a true trade show, the fair is open from 0900 – 1800 hrs. each day, for 3 days; over 30,000 people go through the show in that time. And by the way, there is probably more beer served, all free, during that time than is drunk at 10 years’ worth of ski trade shows in North America – that’s a guess on my part but I’d bet on it. Food is served free as well.
But the real impact is the level of professionalism and technology that is presented. Imagine being at a booth with 7 groomers and the booth next door has several gondola cabins, cable car cabins, 8 seat chairs and a full shop set up to demonstrate the service capability. And this is just one section of the fair. Again my guess, but I estimate that Doppelmayr had well over a hundred fifty people working their booth alone.
The fair is attended by a broad spectrum of people involved in the ski industry, from CEO’s, owners, presidents, GMs right down the ladder to lift operators, snowmakers and groomer operators. You’d see big packs of workers coming by the booth with their company logoed jackets and shirts, lederhosen attired farmers/small ski area owners as well as very businesslike owners in suits.
I had the special opportunity to address a group of ski industry professionals from Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Denmark, Sweden, France, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan and Canada on MountainOffice. This reception was put on by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber. A very well done event that for the participants included skiing, dining and being toured around the fair by members of the Chamber. An extraordinary example of the Austrian government really doing something very positive to assist the ski industry in Austria.
The booth I was working was that of my partner, SEC GmbH, developers of MountainOffice, the maintenance software package Steep Management, LLC represents in North America. It was was full all day everyday with existing clients chatting about what their needs might be and getting input on the upgrades announced at the fair, more on that at another time, or prospective clients getting demos of the software. For me it was a great opportunity to speak in English to those clients or potential clients that did not speak German, amazingly this happened a fair amount.
However, the biggest take away for me and the reason I’d recommend you attend in 2017, fair is held every two years, is the exposure to so many solutions for challenges and issues you face in your daily lives on the hill. I should also share there are no lawyers, no insurance companies, and no finance companies occupying booths; it’s all nuts and bolts products or services for on the hill needs. I saw tools that I sort of knew existed but here I saw them in action, and frankly I saw some I did not know existed. I saw lift evac equipment that solved most any terrain extraction, safety gear that I had never seen. The point being at a fair such as this your eyes are opened and you come away with a sense of “it can be done”. Frankly the cost for me to attend this fair was less than if I attended the NSAA show in San Francisco without a booth.
Here are some samples of tools that caught me by surprise. I have posted links to the Austria manufacturers if you have any interest in finding out what they are and more.